By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
By the time you read this, I will be gone.
Friday, Dec. 5 marked my last day at the San Benito News, and although I’m saddened to say farewell, I’m optimistic for this publication’s future. I leave you in the capable hands of Jacob Lopez, my staff writer and – God-willing – my successor. It’s been a pleasure working alongside Jacob – first when he served as a freelance writer several years ago, then as a reporter at our sister paper, the Port Isabel-South Padre Press, and of course these last several months at the News. He’s also become like a younger brother to me, and I’m proud to have seen him grow as a journalist.
As news of my departure has spread this week, I’ve been the recipient of kind sentiments from our readers and the people with whom I’ve built strong working relationships. But the truth is that I feel undeserving of praise when considering my supporting cast. Though I’m humbled by the overwhelming support, it’s only fair that I make my final “Consider This” entry in this newspaper about the company and its employees that have given so much to me.
My publisher, Ray Quiroga, has long served as my mentor, but he’s of much more importance. Ray has played an integral role in the success experienced by this publication. His implementation of an environment that nurtures creativity, encourages a free-thinking atmosphere, and stresses the importance of breaking hard news while maintaining our identity as a community newspaper has served to create a unique operation that has earned the trust of the community and the respect of our peers.
Managers Rudy Peña and Selma Bermudez, and in the past Maria Luisa Juarez, have exhibited great faith by stepping back and allowing me complete carte blanche in the newsroom. Together with Ray, this crew took a chance on a punk kid who had a crazy idea that at age 23, he could somehow land a job as a reporter with no education or formal training in the field whatsoever. They, along with Armando Garza during his previous tenure here, helped guide me over the years.
And I can’t say enough about our sales staff. Your efforts in garnering the trust of the local business community to spend their advertising dollars with us – this during the Great Recession and a time when our industry faces many challenges – has proven mutually beneficial for both the local economy and this publication. So to our current sales representatives, Mary Escobedo and Robert Perez, as well as our past reps: thank you for exposing me to your world.
Our production and circulation crews are also a constant source of amazement. Everyone who’s operated the printing press, or inserted our papers or endured grueling routes – never forget that you’re responsible for the presentation of this newspaper. Your efforts haven’t gone unnoticed; nor has the work of our graphic designer, Sophia Rodriguez, who remains one of the most dedicated employees on staff.
Then there’s the editorial department. Words alone can’t express how fortunate I am to have been paired with some of the greatest writers and reporters in the Rio Grande Valley. Francisco E. Jimenez, Monica R. Zuñiga, Steven Ray Hernandez and Jo Ann Trevino (my apologies if I’ve forgotten anybody) were some of our most talented staff writers who helped tell San Benito’s story. Jacob is one such writer whose work transcends generations, whose integrity demands more from our public servants than just the status quo, and whose conservative approach to our operation will take you places I couldn’t. Heather Cathleen Cox, a dear friend who – like Francisco – I’ve had the pleasure of working with on two separate occasions, is without a doubt the best young writer in South Texas. Her mere presence upped my game and made me a better editor, and this newspaper was better for it.
These people represent the true source of all that makes the San Benito News great. My only consolation in leaving is that I’ll be joining another newspaper that operates in the Hidalgo County area, where it will not be in direct competition with this publication.
I don’t know what else to say. After 10 years of writing for the News and more than eight years as its managing editor, I’m speechless. I suppose all I can say is goodbye. Thank you for everything. God bless.